We’d been driving around in our converted Soviet van for a few hours now. I’m tired, hot, and a bit cranky when we pull over at a ger (traditional Mongolian dwelling) in the middle of nowhere. I don’t even have the chance to pull off my super-sexy motion sickness bands before I spot it. A baby horse. Knobby knees, matted fur, and all. (Side note: I am quite allergic to horses but love them with all of my heart.) Even better, an adorable Mongolian boy is leading it around on a rope.
And, if there’s anything that I have a weakness for, it is children with animals on ropes.
The boy was wearing pants that matched the color of the expansive Mongolian sky, and a round and happy face.
After an intense convo with him in my advanced Mongolian, I determine that the horse is two. Two what? you might ask. And to you I say, quit being such a stickler for details and look at how cute the thing is! (And it’s either days or weeks, obvi. Not sure which, but the number two was conveyed and noted.)
Almost half of all Mongolians remain nomadic. There aren’t a whole lot of Motel 8s or drive-thrus in the Gobi (or in any part of the country, for that matter), so an awesome and unique part of Mongolian culture is that they will almost always invite you in for food and drink if you stop at one of their gers.
To be the guest of such legendary hospitality is an amazing part of any trip to Mongolia.
Mongolians are horse people, and this boy was no different. It seems like a lot of Mongolians learn to ride before they walk.
The rest of my group went inside the ger to sample some airag, which is fermented mare’s milk and not nearly as disgusting as it sounds.
The boy tugged my free hand (the other firmly gripping the baby horse’s rope) and led me towards the other horses. I guess I’m sitting at the kids’ table – again.
I soon found myself being introduced to each of the horses, as well as his infectious giggle.
He wanted to be sure I petted every horse, and after finishing my rounds, we started a game of tag with the baby horse, which was, yes, as fun as it sounds. I offered the boy some hard candy, which he quickly ate before motioning for more.
Instead of eating it himself, he fed the treat to his two-daysweekswhatevs-old best friend. The silly crunching, delight, and confusion of the baby horse enthralled both the boy and me, and we burst into another fit of giggles.
The fact that we couldn’t speak to each other didn’t matter at all.
His love for the animals was so genuine, and absolutely beautiful. As we started to head back to the ger, he began to kiss all of the horses. When he leaned in to kiss the baby, he saw me turn on my camera, and a huge smile broke out across his face.
The photo above is one of my favorite photos that I’ve ever taken. It captures a moment and a feeling that is so special.
As we drove away, the boy, his older brother, and his grandfather stood outside their ger and waved to us. My grin matched that of the boy’s.
This is why I travel. (And why I love kids, baby animals, and candy.)
This is the first of Travel Junkette’s Postcard series, a regular feature through which I will share stories and photos from past travels.